Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink & Jeffrey Cranor

Themes:

• Supernatural fiction, supernatural, cult/occult, anomalies, sarcastic undertones

• existential crisis, midlife crisis, general crisis, identity crisis

• macabre/gothic settings, monsters/demons/angels

• mystery, investigations, family secrets, teaming up/duo

• value of family, unlikely acquaintances, accountability, living your truth

“It is much like your town, perhaps. It might be more like your town than you’d like to admit. It is a friendly desert community, where the sun is hot, the moon is beautiful, and mysterious lights pass overhead while we all pretend to sleep. Welcome to Night Vale.”

The first novel accompaniment to the renowned “Welcome to Night Vale” podcast written by duo Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor shifts the spotlight from the point of view of narrator and local broadcasting star Cecil. Instead choosing two seemingly random characters within the town as they attempt to reconcile the effects of one man on both their existences. Diane Crayton whose shapeshifting teenaged son seems hard to relate to is in search of her long-time ex. While Jackie Fierro who has been 19 for awhile, runs the local pawnshop and maintains the strict captivity of the antiques.

Neither character has anything in common, nor do they seem to have any interest in truly getting to know each other. But as they slowly learn more about themselves and thwart the strange events taking place that seem to be leading them to King City, it becomes apparent that the answers hinge on their ability to work together to track down the elusive Troy Walsh.

This book elicits the same feelings as the titular podcast. That is intrigue, confusion, bemusement, and fear…no, not fear. Concern. Its story is simple and sweet, like peeking in through the windows of the house that doesn’t exist and watching the bizarre lives of the people within. As a longtime listener and fan of the podcast, it was impossible for my internal monologue to take on the warm and charismatic voice of Cecil, the town’s radio host- something no listener can help. We have tried by switching to the voice of that navigation system in your car (because ours doesn’t have one), we have filed a complaint at City Hall for involuntary identity theft, we have walked into the desert gnashing our teeth and screaming with open mouths at the strange lights in the sky (which is the recommended course of action). The official response usually comes in a singing telegram delivered during the best part of your favorite show: It is not in need of your help, only your acceptance. Accept the narration. Accept the book. Accept that you are an interloper who has been granted this voyeuristic opportunity.

As fans of the show my husband and I were psyched to learn that the writers of such a mysterious and foreboding story had written a novel expanding the world they had so intricately built. One of my favorite traits of their narrative is that so many things are left unanswered. Offhand comments are delivered in matter-of-fact ways that drift into the dog park, never to be tied up in neat little bows. It adds to the lore and gives many interesting threads that sometimes get picked up later. This book tends to wrap up neatly however as its story is stand-alone. Overall, it is interesting for fans of the long-running podcast who will recognize the names and appreciate the cameos, but I would recommend the actual podcast episodes as a better introduction into the series, then reading the book after you get to know everyone. This is not necessary of course, but recommended. The plot was interesting, but it did not have a sense of urgency, and the ending felt a bit anti-climactic. In the end I appreciate it for being the extension of an already exciting universe. For those of you who enjoy whimsical, macabre elements and are drawn to dark settings and sarcastic undertones, take a detour and stop in. Let my inner monologue be the first to introduce you: Welcome to Night Vale!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s